CSU engineering students tapped to help install brewing equipment

Jeff Callaway, left, associate director of the Fermentation Science and Technology Program, with some of the engineering students who are helping set up equipment in the new teaching brewery at the Ramskeller.

The undergraduate students from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at CSU who are helping set up new brewing facilities on campus seem to appreciate that it’s a rare opportunity.

“Being a college student, all I knew at the beginning was that I liked a good beer,” jokes Julia Tucker, a mechanical engineering senior. Tucker learned about the projects brewing in the Ramskeller Pub and Gifford Building during her summer internship with Rockwell Automation, which has donated to the effort.

“I didn’t have any of the hands-on experience I have now,” she said. “It’s been incredibly valuable. You’re working with an interdisciplinary team of five different types of engineers.”

Briana Chamberlain, left, speaks with Jeff Callaway and Andrew Ross in the space that will become the new teaching brewery in the Lory Student Center.

Her colleagues agree that, aside from all of the real-world brewery design skills they’ve learned, simply interacting with various companies as well as students from other fields has been great preparation for their careers.

‘Real-world project’

“A chemical engineer might picture how a valve works differently than an electrical engineer,” says Briana Chamberlain, a chemical and biological engineering major who learned the brewing automation process while employed at New Belgium for a year. “The most rewarding part has been working with a multidisciplinary team on a real-world project that directly benefits CSU.”

“It’s been nice to get that introduction now, rather than struggling with it in our first jobs,” adds mechanical engineering student Andrew Ross.

The team of students — which Tucker helped recruit — has been custom-designing the two-hectoliter teaching and research brewhouse in CSU’s Gifford Building, which houses the New Belgium Brewing Fermentation Science and Technology Laboratory. They’re now turning their attention to setting up and testing the larger brewing system at the Ramskeller Pub in the Lory Student Center. There they’ll work with CSU alumnus and systems engineer Dan Malyszko to set up the automation “brains” of the brewhouse, which features equipment donated by the Molson Coors Brewing Company and many others. The students’ work is all part of a senior design project called “Brewery Design and Automation” sponsored by Malyszko’s engineering firm, Malisko Engineering.

Julia Tucker, center, helped recruit fellow engineering students for the brewery projects.

Looking back

“I recalled my own senior design project at CSU and thought, ‘How cool would it be to involve some of these engineering students in such a unique application?’” Malyszko said. “I’ve told the students that I’m jealous of them, getting this practical experience before graduation. I wish I’d had exposure to industrial manufacturing design in college, but now being part of providing the platform and coaching the students is very rewarding.”

“These engineering students have been invaluable,” said Jeff Callaway, associate director of the Fermentation Science and Technology Program. “They came in at the perfect time. If we were paying for what the students are doing, it would be literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

From left, Ross, Chamberlain and Nick Wells review plans for the teaching brewery in the Ramskeller.

The students have visited local breweries, including New Belgium, Odell and Funkwerks, “to see industry standards and what would make their lives easier in a brewing system,” Tucker says. “In Gifford, we are working with vendors on a completely original design. A lot of senior design projects can get scrapped if they don’t work out. We don’t have that option. We need to get this as close to perfect as possible.”

A lasting effect

“All of our challenges have been great learning experiences,” Chamberlain adds. “It’s nice knowing that my senior design project is not just a capstone but will have a lasting effect on the university I love. Plus, it’s fun. It’s beer!”

Tucker, whose newfound expertise landed her a gig as a beertender for Intersect Brewing in January, says the students’ chosen tagline is “We Engineer the Beer.”

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to work on this project with other departments at CSU and outside sponsors,” Tucker says. “The whole thing has been mind-blowing. I can’t wait to have a beer that’s been made on my own system.”

The Fermentation Science and Technology Program is in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.